For 2014, BMW is introducing the 4-series to replace the 3-series coupe. In Canada it is currently available in two trim levels, 328i or 335i, and will soon introduce a convertible, a Grand-coupe, and an M version.
Performance – The test vehicle that I had the privilege of driving was, as the title states, the 435i with BMW’s xDrive all wheel drive system and the optional M-sport package. Although it’s called a 435, the engine is in fact a 3.0L inline-6 with a single twin-scroll turbocharger. Power is rated at 306hp and 295lb-ft of torque at a ridiculously low 1200rpms. Turbo lag is a thing of the past because it is not existent and the power surges seamlessly from idle all the way to the redline 6500rpms. Shifting is done by either a 6-speed manual or by an 8-speed automatic such as the one on my test vehicle. When driving enthusiastically, don’t expect to be using all 8 gears. At most you’ll be using the first 5 or 6 with the last 2 being there for fuel economy on long, straight highways.
The chassis is almost the same as the new F30 generation 3-series but with slight changes to the overall length and width as well as a lowered roof line. These changes help the BMW 4-series have the lowest center of gravity of any BMW coupe, even the M3. The 435xi has very responsive steering and the chassis changes keep it firmly planted through corners when you’re pushing it hard. Speaking of pushing it hard through corners, when I test drove the vehicle it was raining hard so the conditions were perfect for testing the all wheel drive system and BMW’s Dynamic Stability Control. With the stability system off and if you drive the car like a lunatic, then it will just understeer in every corner. But with the system turned on and with a bit of throttle control from you, the car grips and goes precisely where you want it to go. The all wheel drive system also helped me stay in control by shuffling the power around from the front to the back wheels through the use of electronically controlled differentials and sensors and other boring stuff that I won’t get into. Basically it’s sophisticated enough to shift 100% of the engine’s power to either the front or back wheels depending on which wheel has grip, this is something that Audi’s Quattro system can’t do.
Comfort – The 435xi has the same interior as the new 2013 3-series which is miles better than the older generation 3-series. Wood or aluminum trims are the norm for the dash and voluptuous leather seats come standard. Getting in and out of the back seats is a bit of a hassle (that is the norm for all coupes) but there is ample leg room even for people over 6’ however head room is very limited and I found myself hunched over when I sat in the back. Further back, the trunk space is so massive that it makes the Mercedes S-class trunk look tiny in comparison.
Other cabin comforts include adaptive M-suspension controls which are similar to the EDC system found on the M3. There are settings for comfort, sport, and sport+ that the driver can choose from depending on what their driving style is like. Navigation and iDrive are other (expensive) options that a buyer can choose to have on their 4-series and the updated iDrive system is a bit less complicated and annoying as previous generations so I’m starting to like it now.
Odds and Ends – Like other manufacturers, fuel economy is at the top of the list of improvements for BMW. I’ve already mentioned that this car comes with an optional 8-speed automatic but BMW went further than just adding 2 more gears to improve fuel economy. The 435xi features start/stop technology which shuts the engine off at stop lights as well as on deceleration and braking, it uses the energy that would have been lost in heat and friction from the brakes to recharge the battery and limiting the alternator’s use, putting less strain on the engine and further saving fuel. These technologies, along with improved aerodynamics, help the 435xi achieve a combined fuel rating of 7.6L/100km… not bad for a 300+hp, awd, 6 cylinder engine.
In terms of looks, I think it looks ok from the front but from the side it looks ok up until you get to the end of the door. From there on it looks like the 135M coupe but that’s been elongated. Somehow it just doesn’t look proportional and the exhaust tips look like an afterthought, they stick out like sore thumbs in chrome.
Overall I actually liked the 435xi more than I was expecting to but with all the options ticked off, it puts it awfully close to the same price range as the more powerful Audi S5 and Mercedes C63 AMG.